I’ve been working with a lot of editing lately: removing dead space and clicks and “ums” from audio podcasts, clipping off the unimportant or blurry in video footage, trimming useless or hard-to-understand words out of posts and articles. It strikes me that editing is an important part of maintaining a productive and effective life.

  • Edit Your Commitments- We tend to take on lots of recurring tasks in our lives, and then we stay slave to them, simply because we said yes at some point. Maybe you’re coaching a softball team years after your kids have moved on. You have some sense of obligation, but you’re not really in love with the duty. Find a way to say no with grace. Trim back all the things you’ve committed to, as gracefully as you can (so as not to hurt other people’s feelings), until you’ve found more time for the things that matter most.
  • Edit Your Consumption- How many magazines and newspapers come to the house. Do you read them all, cover to cover? Compare that to how much time you have to do the things you say matter to you. Can you see where a few of those magazines could stop being renewed? How about TV shows? Can you limit your alotted time to 1 hour a day max? How about 3 hours a week?
  • Edit Your Hobbies- I have MANY friends who fall prey to this one. They are creative, and they express it in as many ways possible. Do you play guitar, scrapbook, draw, make movies, write fiction, bake, and build robots? Is there a chance that the phrase “the enemy of great is good” is at play in your life? Meaning: if you cut a few of those hobbies out (even for a four month trial), would you find even more time to focus and improve the few you leave in place?
  • Edit Your Expenses- A large cup of coffee at a nice coffee shop might be $3.00 US. But that’s not a lot to spend on your first great cup of joe in the morning, right? 3×5=15.00 a week; 15×50= $750 a year. That’s a new Mac Mini and a free iPod in exchange for those three dollars a day. Are there places where saving a bit more will help you fund your dreams?
  • Edit Your Holidays- We put lots of energy into what goes on around the holidays. We feel obligated to send cards, obligated to buy gifts for everyone, obligated to observe the rituals of our culture in the most traditional of ways. But what would happen, truly, if you politely chose to do otherwise? What if you sent cards early to the relatives with whom you normally exchange gifts and said, “We love you, and appreciate seeing you around the holidays. Your gifts are always generous. We have all that we need or want. Instead of a gift, would you have us to dinner one night? That would make us happier than anything that comes wrapped with a bow.” Be graceful, as people have emotions wrapped tightly in gift giving, but see whether you can edit SOME of this back.
  • Edit Your Ambitions- Sure, Buckaroo Banzai was a nuclear scientist, brain surgeon, test pilot, and leader of the band the Hong Kong Cavaliers, but are you ready to take on all the various ambitions you’ve set out for yourself? Review your sense of where you want to go in life. Does it make senes? Why do you want to be a vice president? Why do you want to start your own company? Make sure you’re still in alignment with your goals, and question deeply whether they match the life you’re leading.

Obviously, the point isn’t to edit out things you love. If I’ve hit on your favorite thing in the world up there in the list, leave that one in place. The point is to really stare deeply into the life you’re leading right now, take stock, and determine just how much of what you’re doing is excess that could be edited to make room for the material that matters most. I encourage you to try the exercise, and if you’ve any ideas on what else to edit, share with the readers. Lifehack.org is about you, so your comments make these posts better. What can you edit?

– Chris Brogan takes time out from editing to produce podcasts and video casts at Grasshopper Factory. Something needs editing at [chrisbrogan.com], but he’s not willing to admit it, yet.

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